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Luke Shaw: Nowhere to go but up?

Luke Shaw burst onto the Premier League scene at Southampton. Bustling forward from left back and putting in whipping crosses or flashing step overs past the opposition, Shaw became wildly popular. Every bit the attacking presence, Shaw quickly emerged as a target for Manchester United. After forking over the required £30 million for the teenage sensation, Shaw was destined to become the next iconic left back for Manchester United. Three years on and Shaw has failed to live up to the enormous hype or potential. Currently injured, Shaw is watching from the sideline as Jose Mourinho rotates various players at left back trying to find the right man for the job. How has Shaw got to this point? How can he reclaim his spot at left back?

When Luke Shaw was brought over for a then world record fee for a teenager of £30 million, it seemed like a possible bargain. In 2014, Shaw’s first year in Manchester Red, he lit the league up. That year, Shaw played in 15 Manchester United competitive matches and finished with a passing percentage of 86.7. During his more than 1100 minutes on the pitch for the Red Devils the young England International flashed endless energy and potential. The future looked bright! That same year, Shaw was included in England’s squad for the FIFA World Cup. An incredible honor for a teenage defender, especially considering that most defenders don’t hit their peak until they’re in their mid 20’s. A quality defender relies upon his experience more than their ability, this proves why they’re able to player at a higher level as they age in comparison to forward attacking players whom must rely upon ability over experience. Shaw seemed to have a mixture of both.

His sophomore campaign at Old Trafford got off to a great start. In 2015, Shaw consistently started every match in the Premier League. In Louis Van Gall’s formation, Shaw was required to keep a very technical mind in terms of defense, while also being allowed to burst forward with the ball at his feet to assist in the attack. The first month of the season was a revolution for Shaw. He was romping up the sidelines throwing in crosses and key dribbles while hustling back to stop an ensuing counter attack. He looked every bit the part of a Patrice Evra successor. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down. In a Champions League meeting with PSV, Shaw suffered a double leg fracture. The injury was devastating, both to viewers on the television and fans of the squad, we had just lost our future defensive stalwart to a terrible injury.

After rehabilitation, Shaw started sparingly. After coming back from the horrific injury, Manchester United signed a new manager, Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is known for his technically sound tactical formations that never crack. While Shaw has been given a few opportunities under the new manager, he hasn’t taken advantage. Still the attacking presence, Shaw seems to be caught up defensively. Last season, Mourinho experimented with his options at left back. Rotating through combinations of Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind, Mourinho finally found consistency with Rojo. Shaw was pushed out.

Being young and popular, as Shaw was, comes with it’s own weight. For Shaw, the popularity came fast. The huge price tag was met and he went form being a Southampton star to a United new boy in a flash. In all fairness, he was looking the part until the horrific injury derailed his season. However, Shaw is in a current state that might allow that injury to not only derail a season or two, but maybe a career. Mourinho has been adamant that Shaw needs to put in more work on the training ground and on the defensive side of the ball to regain his spot. With all the potential and ability in the world, it seems as if Shaw should just put his head down and complete the intense work that the manager has laid out for him. But, for a younger player coming back from injury, he might feel as if he already has put in the work. Coming back from a double leg fracture, Shaw’s rehabilitation was intense. He did everything possible to get his fitness back in line to compete in the 2016 FA Community Shield. Maybe he thinks this is enough?

Personally, I’m not willing to bet against Shaw. With all the money Manchester United have spent in the transfer market, we have not brought in a left back nor have we sold or loaned Shaw. With Mourinho switching to a three-man defensive line with two wing backs, he envisions Shaw as playing a huge part in this. Throwing Shaw in at left-wing back would get the most out of the young kid and, potentially, put him back into the limelight. Shaw is young, if he can put the necessary work in, he has the ability to be one of the best left-backs in the world.

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